Of all our native plants, none can rival in stately beauty this native representative of the Irises. One of the most distinguished plants, it is found in the marginal vegetation of watery places, on river-banks, by the side of lakes and ponds, in ditches and hedges, any moist, shady place will suit it. It is not considered to be threatened. In fact it is often introduced to newly-created ponds and lakes as a desirable marginal plant and is quite worthy of a place in our gardens.
The flowers are 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) across and can vary from a pale yellow to deeper orange-yellow; each plant may bear up to twelve flowers. The long, stiff leaves are erect and sword-like with a bluish tinge and a prominent midrib, they can grow up to 90cm (3ft) long.
Ideal for wildlife gardens, it looks particularly good if planted in naturalised drifts among other moisture-loving plants. It also associates well with dark blue flowered plants. In ideal conditions the yellow Iris can spread quickly, if you don't have room for a large pond or bog garden, try growing it in a large container filled with water.
Iris pseudacorus has been awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow from Autumn to Spring
Keep the seeds in packaging in a fridge until they are planted. Seeds need cold in order to be able to germinate. There are two methods that can be used to break the dormancy of the seeds. Before planting soak the seeds in water. Take one cup of hot (not boiling) tap water, add the seed, let it cool and let soak for 24 hours.
The Natural Method.
One way is to “Winter Sow” the seeds. Sow seeds in moisture retentive compost 6mm (1/8th) inch deep, before winter, and place it in a sheltered part of the garden exposed to the elements, in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The seed trays then have the benefits of the repeated chill and thaw that it would naturally. Grit can be used to protect the seed and surface of the soil.
The alternative method is to subject them to a period of cold “stratification” for two to three months prior to planting. To do this, place the seeds either in a dampened piece of kitchen roll, in a small plastic bag or in a small container filled with slightly moist soil, moss or sand
Place them in the fridge (not freezer) Check seeds periodically as germination may occur while in the fridge. Plant out into 7cm (3in) pots as they germinate.
Seeds may take from 30 to 180 days to germinate, so let the pot sit for at least one year.
They look a little like grass spikes, they must be kept moist at all times: check them regularly and pot on once they are large enough to handle. Grow seedlings in a cool environment after germination. Plant outside after seedlings have been hardened off.
Iris are easily cultivated, they enjoy moist growing conditions. For best blooming plant in moist fertile soil if in full sun, otherwise they can be planted in shade.
Once established these are very hardy perennials and require little maintenance.
Plants require two years before they will produce flowers but they are well worth the wait. Established plants should be divided after every three years. Before and after planting and flowering, cut the leaves to 15cm (6in) to prevent the rhizome being dislodged by wind-rock.
Beds and Borders, Water Features, Ponds and Streams, Bog Gardens.
This Iris is one of the easiest, and showiest, of native aquatics for the home gardener.
The roots of Iris are used to make natural dyes. The green dye obtained from the leaves of species was used in the Harris tweed industry. Modern dyers report that iris leaves produce a pale yellow dye if alum is used as a mordant, bright green if copper is used and dark, grey-green if iron is the mordant. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers.
According to older references a good black dye is obtained from the root if it is mixed with iron sulphate. It is brown otherwise. Modern dyers report that iris roots produce a 'greeny brown' dye (with alum and iron as mordants), 'orangey-brown', if alum is the sole mordant.
The root is a source of tannin and has been used in making ink boiled with copperas (green sulphate of iron).
A delicately scented essential oil is obtained from the roots, it has been used to adulterate the oil of Sweet Flag, Acorus calamus.
Yellow flag, when used in thatching is reported to be particularly suited as a layer underneath marram, as it provides an even, flat surface for laying the marram on.
There was an early 19th century French suggestion of the use of the seeds as a coffee substitute, I wouldn't recommend it as it may be toxic.
Yellow iris is one of several wetland species that is used together with common reed (Phragmites australis) in reedbeds and constructed wetlands for waste water treatment. Several plant species can be used to maximise the biomass and increase the diversity of the reedbed so it can adapt to different conditions. Adding extra plant species provides different niches for bacterial growth and can only improve the water purifying activity of the reedbed or wetland.
Iris pseudacorus is a species of Iris, native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa. One of only two native irises (the other being Iris foetidissima), it can be found throughout the county in wet meadows, wet woodlands, lakes, ponds, canals and rivers. The Yellow Iris is a common plant across the British Isles, apart from the Scottish Highlands, but is the only wild Iris in Northern Ireland.
Yellow Iris used to be more widespread in marshes, fens and wet meadows and loss of many of these habitats through drainage in the past century means that is now more typically associated with standing and running water. However, it remains a common and familiar species and is not considered to be threatened. In fact it is often introduced to newly-created ponds and lakes as a desirable marginal plant.
The iris's history is rich, dating back to Ancient Greek times. Iris was a Greek messenger-goddess who rode rainbows between heaven and earth to deliver messages from Olympus. With over 200 varieties in a wide spectrum of colours, the iris fittingly takes its name from the Greek word for 'rainbow'.
Its specific name, pseudacorus, refers to its similarity to another plant, pseudo being the Greek for false, while acorus is the generic name of the Sweet Sedge (Acorus calamus), with which it is supposed to have been confused, the plants when not in flower resembling it and growing in the same situations. The Sweet Sedge, however, has an aromatic scent, while Iris pseudacorus is odourless.
Common names include 'Flag' or ‘Yellow Flag’. The name flag is from the middle English flagge, meaning rush or reed.
A local name, Segg, comes from the Anglo-Saxon for a short sword, and many of the common names such as Daggers and Jacob's Sword refer to the blade-like character of the leaves.
Iris pseudacorus is often called fleur-de-lys, the 'Flower of Lys', particularly when used as a symbol. Lys is the name of a river in Flanders, along the banks of which the Yellow Iris is particularly abundant.
The Fleur-de-lys symbol:
According to legend, the first person to wear the iris as a heraldic device was Clovis, who became king of the Franks in the late 5th century. He drove the Romans out of northern Gaul, converted to Christianity, and changed the three toads on his banner for three yellow irises.
One of he legends attached to Clovis’s conversion tells of his promise to his wife Clothilde, that if he won his battle against the Goths, he would convert to her religion, Catholicism. In the course of the battle, the outcome was becoming doubtful and he needed to cross a river to surprise the enemy from behind. He saw a colony of yellow irises in the river, indicating that the waters were shallow at that point. His army crossed and won the battle.
Clovis converted to Catholicism. He abandoned the emblem on his coat of arms and adopted the yellow irises as his new emblem. Six centuries later, the iris was adopted by Louis VII in the fleur-de-lys which he wore in his crusade against the Saracens.
It has been suggested the name Fleur de Lys is a corruption of Fleur de Louis, from the time of Louis VII's crusade, however, Lys is also the name of a river in Flanders, along the banks of which the Yellow Iris is particularly abundant.
The symbol itself is actually much older than Clovis and occurs on many ancient artefacts from Mesopotamian cylinders to Gaulish coins. It occurs in wide variety of heraldic and symbolic contexts and is often used as the North Point on the compass rose which is why it is a symbol of the Boy Scouts movement. Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Family Iridaceae Genus Iris Species pseudacorus Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Common Name Fleur-de-lys, Flag Iris
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Iris Aquatica. Iris lutia. Yellow Flag. Yellow Iris. Fleur de Luce.
Segg. Sheggs. Daggers. Jacob's Sword.
Other Language Names IR. Feileastram siolastrach Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Yellow in late spring to early summer. Foliage Dark Green, sword shaped Height 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Spread 38 to 45cm (15 to 18in) Position Full sun or partial shade Time to Sow Sow from Autumn to Spring